Foreign Policy Blogs

Pakistan Needs to Weed out Taliban, National Intelligence Estimate Confirms

I can’t help but think that this is fairly obvious news: The U.S. intervention in Afghanistan won’t work unless the Pakistani government and military rounds up its Taliban allies and, in a manner of speaking, breaks the back of the various groups that constitute the Taliban–both the Afghanistan and Pakistan contingents.

Elisabeth Bumiller, writing for the New York Times reports:

The reports, one on Afghanistan and one on Pakistan, say that although there have been gains for the United States and NATO in the war, the unwillingness of Pakistan to shut down militant sanctuaries in its lawless tribal region remains a serious obstacle. American military commanders say insurgents freely cross from Pakistan into Afghanistan to plant bombs and fight American troops and then return to Pakistan for rest and resupply.

The findings in the reports, called National Intelligence Estimates, represent the consensus view of the United States’ 16 intelligence agencies, as opposed to the military, and were provided last week to some members of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees. The findings were described by a number of American officials who read the reports’ executive summaries.

President Obama will release his December, mid-policy review tomorrow.  Along with the spate of news that fares badly for his efforts in the Af/Pak region, the recent death of his Special Envoy, Richard Holbrooke has surely dealt a crushing blow to his policy program.  Further that his 30,000 troop surge only worked into the field this past September can’t help the politics of the policy much. Whatever the merits of the surge, there’s simply been insufficient for the surge to ramp up and show results.  And results matter: President Obama’s re-election hinges on a feasible exit strategy that politicos might credibly defend as victory in Afghanistan.

For all this and more, the political scene has been awash with the speculation that President Obama will segue to a narrower counter-terrorism policy directed against the marauders in the tribal regions, the meat of which Vice President Biden has long supported.  This policy would demand fewer boots on the ground and would be consistent with both the 2011 draw down and the commitment to stay in Afghanistan and Pakistan until at least 2014.

The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) simply confirms a political fact that we have known for at least a year. The War in Afghanistan is lost to us, in every credible form, unless Pakistan digs in and thrashes out the Taliban.

The trouble is that Pakistan will likely not turn out the Taliban. Leaders of the government and the military in Pakistan think they need them to secure Afghanistan for their own interests after the U.S and its NATO allies leave.



Faheem Haider
Faheem Haider

Faheem Haider is a political analyst, writer and artist. He holds advanced research degrees in political economy, political theory and the political economy of development from the London School of Economics and Political Science and New York University. He also studied political psychology at Columbia University. During long stints away from his beloved Washington Square Park, he studied peace and conflict resolution and French history and European politics at the American University in Washington DC and the University of Paris, respectively.

Faheem has research expertise in democratic theory and the political economy of democracy in South Asia. In whatever time he has to spare, Faheem paints, writes, and edits his own blog on the photographic image and its relationship to the political narrative of fascist, liberal and progressivist art.

That work and associated writing can be found at the following link:

Great Decisions Discussion group